The body language wasn't too convincing for a lion's share of the first half but Tauranga City eventually found an intelligible dialect to claim their maiden national under-19 football title in Napier today.
City came from 1-0 down to equalise three minutes before halftime to clinch a don't-argue 3-1 victory over perennial favourites Birkenhead United FC (Auckland) in the main cup draw at the majestic Bluewater Stadium in Park Island.
"We have been in a strong position all year and this tournament was one we definitely targeted to do well in and we've gone from strength to strength to feel we deserved to be in the final to go on to show what we can do," said City coach Cameron Grieve.
Grieve said it was a team mantra to immerse themselves in self-belief as the Paul Hobson-coached Birkenhead seemed to ebb and flow in their energy and enthusiasm after a robust start.
"We felt at halftime we needed to take more control of the game and working that ball so as not to give them too many opportunities so after 10 to 15 minutes we started to do that," he said.
Birkenhead captain/striker Jack Kelly lit the fuse in the 11th minute with a crisp finish from the top edge of the box before his City counterpart, leftback Adam Davidson, slotted a penalty kick when Liam Molloy was fouled in the 27th minute of the 30-minute halves.
City striker Alfie Cole struck again 30 seconds before halftime for a 2-1 lead over a stunned Birkenhead after right wing Jordy Toy darted down his flank, beat a defender to curl the ball into the stock exchange.
Grieve, who received a healthy dose of water from celebratory missile bottles, said two sun-baked days had sapped the lads' energy but, mercifully, the overcast conditions had offered some respite and the sporadic drizzle at the final whistle was a blessing.
"We're trying to build some talent at Tauranga City and these boys are a big part of that," he said, optimistic about returning next year to defend their crown.
Four-time champions Birkenhead was in their ninth cup final in 11 years here and Hobson had likened the tourney to a Chatham Cup atmosphere. Ironically the Chatham Cup was on display at the Napier clubrooms for display throughout weekend.
In the semifinals, City had edged out Bay Olympic Soccer & Sports (Auckland) 2-1 while Birkenhead pipped Fencibles United AFC 1-0 in the Auckland derby.
Hosts Rovers stumbled 2-1 to Buckland Beach FC (Auckland) in their semifinal to miss out on an automatic entry to the main draw next year.
The sides were scoreless at halftime but the Blues conceded an own goal to trail 2-0 into the second half.
Centreback Nick Yorke pulled one back to 2-1 in the dying minutes but it was too little, too late for the Rovers who will remain in the satellite section for the fourth year.
Blues coach Chris McIvor said they threw the kitchen sink in trying to score the equaliser after they were 1-0 down but ended up on a bigger deficit.
"We've had like three clear-cut chances in the first half which we didn't take so that's pretty disappointing," McIvor lamented.
It was a case of deja vu on the same pitch and the same stage of the tourney as last year for the Blues.
He said the Rovers would retain a lion's share of the squad to return next year but the bigger picture for the club was to groom talent for their Central League and Chatham Cup-reigning flagship team.
It took Stop Out extra time to overcome North Wellington 2-1 after the sides were locked 1-all in regulation during the capital city derby in the other satellite semifinal.
Bucklands Beach went on to steamroll Stop Out 3-0 in the final, courtesy of a Thomas Golding hattrick, as both teams earned promotion to the cup segment next year.
The women's final came down to a penalty shootout with Hamilton Wanderers retaining their crown when they eclipsed Ellerslie AFC 4-3 after they were locked 1-all in regulation time.
Hamilton coach Dave McGall and Ellerslie counterpart Ryan Shiffman would have preferred extra time but agreed with the organisers the rules had stipulated a straight shootout to enable other finals to be played on the marquee pitch.
"Obviously, without being controversial, both teams thought there was extra time but the officials said it was straight to the penalties, which we were both disappointed about," McGall said but took it in their stride.
Left winger Kate McConnell drew first blood in the 17th minute before Ellerslie striker Helena Danesh-Clough cancelled the lead in the 24th minute.
McGall was delighted with the result despite his inability to field two players who remained on the bench.
He had retained five players from last year who had won under the tutelage of another mentor.
"Graeme Sole's staged an amazing tournament and we're very happy with how it's all turned out."
Ironically Ellerslie had thumped Hamilton 4-0 in pool play so McGall was pleased his teens had redeemed themselves.
"To be honest, we just didn't turn up in the first half of the first game and they were a very good attacking team," he said after Hamilton had trailed 3-0 at halftime.
Shiffman lauded Hamilton for their turn around after putting Ellerslie under immense pressure.
"They did a great job in disrupting our passing channels and made it very tough for us to play," he said. "It wasn't our best game but that's easy to say and not give credit to the opposition."
Shiffman echoed McGall's sentiments on the tourney, something they had noted for years with the Ellerslie boys' teams.
"It's definitely well run and, hopefully, more women's teams will get involved with it to grow the girls' side."
Bucklands Beach pipped Palmerston North Marist 2-1 in the women's plate final.